After Durant left the team that drafted him, Thunder fans didn’t know what to expect from their team. Luckily for them, they had Russell Westbrook. Westbrook will become the first player in four decades to average a triple-double. He also kept the Thunder in the playoff picture throughout, in the hard-to-win-in Western Conference.
Houston, who lost their starting center to Atlanta, gained an improved James Harden. Houston will finish third in the Western Conference. That’s in large part thanks to Harden, who averaged two rebounds shy of a triple double. Harden will finish the season as the third-leading scorer while leading the league in assists. Westbrook and Harden are the top candidates for the MVP trophy this season.
In Chicago, Wade and the Bulls hold the tie-breaker over the Miami Heat which currently keeps them in the final playoff spot in the East. But there is one game left to be played tonight for the Bulls to secure that spot. Good news for the Bulls is that they play the Brooklyn Nets. Bad news–they play the Nets. Despite the Nets being one of the worst teams in the league this season, they are the last team that handed the Bulls a loss.
Playoff Matchups Set in the West
The top seed in the West was locked up by the Warriors–again. But they will be taking on a young and hungry Portland team in the first round. Portland is led by their dynamic backcourt of Damien Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Warriors meanwhile still have the Splash Brothers in Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. It will certainly be a good guard matchup in the one-versus-eight matchup.
The backcourt might not be the deciding factor in this series, though. Kevin Durant has rejoined the team after suffering an injury earlier this season. He can and will be the deciding piece. Teammate Stephen Curry says the team is excited to have Durant back and now the full team can get back in the flow of things heading into playoffs.
The Spurs and Grizzlies will meet again. This should be tough and slow matchup, but the Spurs do have Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has had a phenomenal season, especially considering he was called upon to fill the role of the retired Tim Duncan over the offseason. The Spurs should win the series in no more than five games.
In a very attractive matchup, the Rockets will be taking on the Thunder in the first round. The top two MVP candidates will be going head to head, in the form of former teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden. This should be a fast paced, high-scoring treat for all fans.
Last but not least, the L.A. Clippers and the much-improved Utah Jazz will also be going head to head. Winning eight of their last ten games, the Clippers have come back to earn the four seed, as things currently stand. The Jazz-Clippers match up will largely depend on home-court advantage, and who can play the most consistent basketball. This could very well be the closest matchup in the Western Conference playoffs this year.
Western Conference playoff predictions:
Warriors > Blazers
Spurs > Grizzlies
Thunder > Rockets (upset)
Clippers > Jazz
— ᴘʀɪᴍᴇ ᴛɪᴍᴇ (@ViewsFromMarcus) April 11, 2017